A married couple sits at home, both in their upper 40’s. The woman reads while the man watches football and enjoys his Sunday afternoon with beer and nachos. She is a nurse always on the go; he is an accountant that lives in a cubicle. The woman is relatively healthy, but has not been to the doctor lately to prove this. The man is overweight and hasn’t seen a gym in years.
During the football game the woman asks why there is pink everywhere, to which the man responds it is breast cancer awareness month, October. This leads to an epiphany for the woman to get a mammogram. Lo and behold she has stage one breast cancer, easily treatable. She has incredible support from everyone in her life, especially her husband.
While this stressful life event is going on, the man works overtime every week to attempt to stay on top of the bills for chemotherapy and the ensuing surgery. For months this routine continues, and at the end the woman is cancer-free.
This seems like a tale of inspiration and how breast cancer awareness is a success, but while this was happening, the man put more stress on his already worn-out body. The man worked extra, drank a bit more, ate less healthy options, and slept less. This was how he adapted to his new work-oriented life. Is it shocking that he dies of a major heart attack while living his new lifestyle?
The warning signs for this man were clear from the start, and became more obvious as time progressed. Why did it go unnoticed, when the risk was equally urgent as the breast cancer?
The world today is obsessed with the word “cancer.” I must say that the breast cancer awareness initiatives are excellent at marketing. Other cancers could learn a thing or two. Fashion moved to make “pink” and supporting charity a trend. There are shirts, 5Ks, NFL apparel and even “I Love Boobies” bracelets.
It is not bad; in fact it is on the right track. But, with the continuation of the trend, there must also be a focus on other diseases as well. Cancer is a scary word, and the word has much more impact than heart disease, but why? More people are affected by heart disease than cancer, and it is generally easier to address. A healthy lifestyle needs to be “popular” and “in.” If you are reading this, what are your thoughts?
Here’s some food for thought: in 2011, National Cancer Institute funding for breast cancer was twice the amount for lung cancer. Calculated according to deaths, that comes to $15,638 per breast cancer death that year compared with $1,891 per lung cancer death, and $2,641 per pancreatic cancer death.
Here are the actual deaths in 2009 in the US according by category:
Heart disease: 599,413
Lung cancer: 158,158
Lower respiratory disease: 137,353
Colorectal cancer: 52,394
Kidney disease: 48,935
Breast cancer: 41,078
Pancreatic cancer: 35,628
Liver disease: 30,558
Prostate cancer: 28,088
Source: National Center for Health Statistics